Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Although human temporal cortex is known to be important for short- and long-term memory, its role in visual perception is not well understood. In this study, we compared the performance of three patients with unilateral temporal lobectomies to that of normal controls on both fisimplefl and ficomplexfl visual discriminations that did not involve explicit memory components. Two types of complex tasks were tested that involved discriminations secondary to texture segmentation. These were contrasted with simple discriminations using luminance-defined stimuli. Patients showed impaired thresholds only on tasks involving texture segmentation, performing as well as controls when the targets were defined by luminance rather than texture. The minimum stimulus presentation times for threshold performance were also measured for all tasks and found to be elevated in temporal lobectomy patients relative to controls. Although the magnitude of the deficits observed was substantial, loss was equivalent in ipsi- and contra-lesional regions of the visual field. Additional control experiments showed that the patients' perceptual deficits were not due, even in part, to disturbances of basic visual capacities such as acuity and contrast sensitivity. Our results indicate that temporal lobe damage disrupts complex, but not simple, visual discriminations throughout the visual field.